Jury Is Still Out On Baldwin Shooting

He probably will not face criminal charges.

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Even though it is tempting to hope Alec Baldwin gets the book thrown at him for the recent shooting incident on a movie set, the law is the law and Baldwin probably did not know the gun was hot. But that’s a criminal question under investigation yet to come to a conclusion. Until then, let’s stay with the facts and the law. Even if, to some extent, they favor leftist blowhard Alec Baldwin. Attorney and FNC legal ace Gregg Jarrett provides legal details.

Jarrett: We often think of an accidental death as something happening by chance that was unintentional.

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This would be a convenient way of explaining the tragic shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico film set of the movie “Rust.” However, criminal law is rarely convenient. Nor is it simple.

Murder and manslaughter are complex concepts in the law of homicide. Even an accidental death can rise to the level of criminal homicide if it involves reckless acts or grossly negligent conduct – especially if the calamitous consequence was reasonably foreseeable.

Within this broad framework, the still-developing facts involving the actor Alec Baldwin give us some guidance about who, if anyone, might be culpable for potential crimes.

It is uncontested that Baldwin fired a prop gun that killed Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. According to reports, Baldwin was handed the firearm by an assistant director who stated aloud that it was a “cold gun,” meaning that it was empty. According to details of the police investigation, the weapon was loaded with a live round.

If it is true that Baldwin had no idea there was an actual bullet or other projectile in the gun, he would not be charged with the crime of murder because he had no intent to kill as the law requires. But that does not mean that the actor could not face a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter – otherwise known as criminally negligent homicide.

Under New Mexico law this is defined as a death caused by the failure to exercise “due caution.” In other words, while it might have been an accident in the conventional sense, Baldwin could still be prosecuted and convicted upon a showing that he was reckless or grossly negligent.

If Baldwin was merely a hired actor who simply followed directions on the set by relying on the assurance of the assistant director, there would be insufficient evidence to support an involuntary manslaughter charge against him. He would not be culpable at all under the law.

If any good can come from this sad story, it is an improvement in safety protocols or, preferably, the outright abolition of authentic guns loaded with blanks used on movie sets…

Already the executive producer of ABC TV’s “The Rookie” has announced that real firearms will no longer be used as props on his set effective immediately. A select few movie producers in Hollywood previously banned such weapons. More may do so now. And why not?

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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